E-focus Child Safe Policy and Statement of Commitment

What is a child safe policy?

The E-focus child safe policy is an overarching document that provides an overview of key elements of our organisation’s approach to child safety. In the context of E-focus activities this relates to all persons less than 18 years of age. The policy includes:

  • our organisation’s zero tolerance of child abuse[1]
  • E-focus child safe processes and procedures, and link to existing documents that include child safety considerations – for example, its reporting procedures (including leadership responsibilities), how to respond to an allegation of child abuse, human resources and recruitment practices, and risk management strategy and procedures
  • our organisation’s commitment to cultural safety for Aboriginal and children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds and/or children with a disability
  • detail expectations and requirements of staff and volunteers to ensure the protection of children, and the training and support staff receive
  • contact details for staff to access information in relation to child safety, such as the child safety officer as a point of contact for staff who have questions or concerns or want to report an allegation of child abuse.
    • how and when the policy and other child safety tools are reviewed to help E-focus improve.

Statement of commitment to child safety

This statement affirms our commitment to child safety by clearly stating that E-focus:

  • has zero tolerance for child abuse
  • actively works to listen to and empower children
  • has systems to protect children from abuse, and will take all allegations and concerns very seriously and responds to them consistently in line with the organisation’s policies and procedures
    • is committed to promoting cultural safety for Aboriginal children, cultural safety for children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds, and to providing a safe environment for children with a disability.

Further information

Further information on child safe standards contact Department of Health and Human Services website

Additional resources for organisations in the child  safe standards toolkit can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website: An Overview to the Victorian child  safe standards,

 

Our Commitment to Child  Safety

E-focus is committed to child safety.

We want children to be safe, happy and empowered. We support and respect all children, as well as our staff and volunteers.

We are committed to the safety, participation and empowerment of all children.

We have zero tolerance of child abuse, and all allegations and safety concerns will be treated very seriously and consistently with our policies and procedures.

We have legal and moral obligations to contact authorities when we are worried about a child’s safety, which we follow rigorously.

E-focus is committed to preventing child abuse and identifying risks early, and removing and reducing these risks.

We have robust human resources and recruitment practices for all staff and volunteers.

Our organisations is committed to regularly educating our staff and volunteers on child abuse risks.

We are committed to the cultural safety of Aboriginal children, the cultural safety of children from a culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds, and to providing a safe environment for children with a disability.

We have specific policies, procedures and training in place that support our leadership team, staff and volunteers to achieve these commitments.

If you believe a child is at immediate risk of abuse phone 000.

Our children

We promote diversity and tolerance in our organisation, and people of all ages and from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds are welcome. In particular we:

  • promote the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of Aboriginal children
  • promote the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds
    • ensure that children with a disability are safe and can participate equally.

Our staff and volunteers

This policy guides our staff and volunteers on how to behave with children in our organisation.

All of our staff and volunteers must agree to abide by our code of conduct which specifies the standards of conduct required when working with children. All staff and volunteers, as well as children and their families, are given the opportunity to contribute to the development of the code of conduct.

Training and supervision

Training and education is important to ensure that everyone in our organisation understands that child safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Our organisational culture aims for all staff and volunteers (in addition to parents/carers and children) to feel confident and comfortable in discussing any allegations of child abuse or child safety concerns. We train our staff and volunteers to identify, assess, and minimise risks of child abuse and to detect potential signs of child abuse.

New employees and volunteers will receive induction to ensure they understand our organisation’s commitment to child safety and that everyone has a role to play in protecting children from abuse, as well as checking that their behaviour towards children is safe and appropriate (please refer to E-focus code of conduct to understand appropriate behaviour further). Any inappropriate behaviour will be reported through appropriate channels, including the Department of Health and Human Services and Victoria Police, depending on the severity and urgency of the matter.

Recruitment

We take reasonable steps to employ skilled people to work with children. We develop selection criteria and advertisements which clearly demonstrate our commitment to child safety and an awareness of our social and legislative responsibilities. Our organisation understands that when recruiting staff and volunteers we have ethical as well as legislative obligations.

We actively encourage applications from Aboriginal peoples, people from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds and people with a disability.

All people engaged in child -related work, including volunteers, are required to hold a Working with Children Check and to provide evidence of this Check. Please see the Working with Children Check website <www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au> for further information

We carry out reference checks and police record checks to ensure that we are recruiting the right people. Police record checks are used only for the purposes of recruitment and are discarded after the recruitment process is complete. We do retain our own records (but not the actual criminal record) if an applicant’s criminal history affected our decision making process.

If during the recruitment process a person’s records indicate a criminal history then the person will be given the opportunity to provide further information and context.

Fair procedures for personnel

The safety and wellbeing of children is our primary concern. We are also fair and just to personnel. The decisions we make when recruiting, assessing incidents, and undertaking disciplinary action will always be thorough, transparent, and based on evidence.

We record all allegations of abuse and safety concerns using our incident reporting form[2], including investigation updates. All records are securely stored.

If an allegation of abuse or a safety concern is raised, we provide updates to children and families on progress and any actions we as an organisation take.

Privacy

All personal information considered or recorded will respect the privacy of the individuals involved, whether they be staff, volunteers, parents or children, unless there is a risk to someone’s safety. We have safeguards and practices in place to ensure any personal information is protected. Everyone is entitled to know how this information is recorded, what will be done with it, and who will have access to it.

Legislative responsibilities

Our organisation takes our legal responsibilities seriously, including:

  • Failure to disclose: Reporting child sexual abuse is a community-wide responsibility. All adults in Victoria who have a reasonable belief that an adult has committed a sexual offence against a child under 16 have an obligation to report that information to the police.[3]
  • Failure to protect: People of authority in our organisation will commit an offence if they know of a substantial risk of child sexual abuse and have the power or responsibility to reduce or remove the risk, but negligently fail to do so.[4]
  • Any personnel who are mandatory reporters must comply with their duties.[5]

Risk management

In Victoria, organisations are required to protect children when a risk is identified (see information about failure to protect above). In addition to general occupational health and safety risks, we proactively manage risks of abuse to our children.

We have risk management strategies in place to identify, assess, and take steps to minimise child abuse risks, which include risks posed by physical environments (for example, any doors that can lock a child in), and online environments (for example, no staff or volunteers are to exchange email or have contact with a child  on social media).

Regular review

This policy will be reviewed every two years and following significant incidents if they occur. We will ensure that families and children have the opportunity to contribute. Where possible we will work with local Aboriginal, culturally and/or linguistically diverse communities and people with a disability.

Allegations, concerns and complaints

Our organisation takes all allegations seriously and has practices in place to investigate thoroughly and quickly. Our staff and volunteers are instructed on how to deal appropriately with allegations.

We work to ensure all children, families, staff and volunteers know what to do and who to tell if they observe abuse or are a victim, and if they notice inappropriate behaviour.

We all have a responsibility to report an allegation of abuse if we have a reasonable belief that an incident took place (see information about failure to disclose above).

If an adult has a reasonable belief that an incident has occurred then they must report the incident. Factors contributing to reasonable belief may be:

  • a child states they or someone they know has been abused (noting that sometimes the child may in fact be referring to themselves)
  • behaviour consistent with that of an abuse victim is observed[6]
  • someone else has raised a suspicion of abuse but is unwilling to report it
  • observing suspicious behaviour.

 

Code of conduct

All staff, volunteers and Board members of E-focus are required to observe child safe principles and expectations for appropriate behaviour towards and in the company of children, as noted below.

All personnel of E-focus are responsible for supporting the safety, participation, wellbeing and empowerment of children by:

  • adhering to E-focus child safe policy and upholding E-focus statement of commitment to child safety at all times
  • taking all reasonable steps to protect children from abuse
  • treating everyone with respect
  • listening and responding to the views and concerns of children, particularly if they are telling you that they or another child has been abused and/or are worried about their safety or the safety of another child
  • promoting the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of Aboriginal children (for example, by never questioning an Aboriginal child ’s self-identification)
  • promoting the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of children with culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds (for example, by having a zero tolerance of discrimination)
  • promoting the safety, participation and empowerment of children with a disability (for example, during personal care activities)
  • ensuring as far as practicable that adults are not left alone with a child
  • reporting any concerns or allegations of child abuse to E-focus Child  Safety Officers, E-focus CEO George Giuliani or Executive Assistant Lynette McPherson and ensure any allegation is reported to the police or child  protection
  • if an allegation of child abuse is made, ensure as quickly as possible that the child(ren) are safe
    • encouraging children to ‘have a say’ and participate in all relevant organisational activities where possible, especially on issues that are important to them.

Staff and volunteers must not:

  • develop any ‘special’ relationships with children that could be seen as favouritism (for example, the offering of gifts or special treatment for specific children)
  • exhibit behaviours with children which may be construed as unnecessarily physical (for example inappropriate sitting on laps. Sitting on laps could be appropriate sometime, for example while reading a storybook to a small child in an open plan area)
  • put children at risk of abuse (for example, by locking doors)
  • do things of a personal nature that a child can do for themselves, such as toileting or changing clothes
  • engage in open discussions of a mature or adult nature in the presence of children (for example, personal social activities)
  • use inappropriate language in the presence of children
  • express personal views on cultures, race or sexuality in the presence of children
  • discriminate against any child, including because of culture, race, ethnicity or disability
  • have contact with a child or their family outside of our organisation without our child safety officer’s knowledge and/or consent (for example, no babysitting). Accidental contact, such as seeing people in the street, is appropriate)
  • have any email or online contact with a child or their family (unless necessary, for example providing families with e-newsletters)
    • ignore or disregard any suspected or disclosed child abuse.

By observing these standards you acknowledge your responsibility to immediately report any breach of this code to E-focus Child Safety Officers, E-focus CEO George Giuliani or Executive Assistant Lynette McPherson.

If you believe a child is at immediate risk of abuse phone 000.

[1] The child or young person safe standards aim to protect child or young person from abuse in organisations, including physical violence, sexual offences, serious emotional or psychological abuse and serious neglect. For further explanation of the different types of child or young person abuse, please see An Overview of the Victorian child or young person safe standards

[2] See resource in this toolkit.

[3] A person will not commit this offence if they have a reasonable excuse for not disclosing the information, including a fear for their safety or where the information has already been disclosed.

Further information about the failure to disclose offence is available on the Department of Justice and Regulation website

[4] Further information about the failure to protect offence is available on the Department of Justice and Regulation website  <www.justice.vic.gov.au/home/safer+communities/protecting+child or young personren+and+families/failure+to+protect+offence>.

[5] Mandatory reporters (doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers (including early child or young personhood teachers), principals and police) must report to child or young person protection if they believe on reasonable grounds that a child or young person is in need of protection from physical injury or sexual abuse.

See the Department of Health and Human Services website for information about how to make a report to child or young person protection  <www.dhs.vic.gov.au/about-the-department/documents-and-resources/reports-publications/guide-to-making-a-report-to-child or young person-protection-or-child or young person-first>.

[6] For example behaviour, please see An Overview of the Victorian child or young person safe standards: <www.dhs.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/word_doc/0005/955598/Child or young person-safe-standards_overview.doc>